There was no question that I had to pick up Elizabeth Partridge's new book Marching for Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary. "Walk Together Children" is one of my favorite spirituals (you can even hear me perform it as part of my Songs of the Civil War Era lecture) and Elizabeth Partridge is the author of that stunning Woody Guthrie biography I was so taken with back in 2008. Resistance was futile.
Marching for Freedom covers the time period surrounding the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march that led to groundbreaking voter's rights legislation for African Americans. Unlike most books about the Civil Rights Movement, Elizabeth Partridge focuses on the young people who were a pivotal, energetic force for change in Alabama. Partridge argues that without the kids as young as six years old who stood up for justice and equality, many adults may not have had the courage to get involved. She writes that adults were often "shaken into bravery" by the determination of the young people around them.
Lynda Blackmon Lowery, the youngest person to make the entire 54 mile march on Mongomery said, "I was not brave, I was not courageous. I was determined. That's how I got to Montgomery."
One of the things I loved most about this book was the emphasis on the role of music during the Civil Rights Movement. Time after time, while these children found themselves in horrific, untenable circumstances...beaten, intimidated, thrown in jail, sometimes kids as young as 14 years old placed in solitary confinement...they sang. Patridge writes:
"The music made them bigger than their defeat, bigger than their fear. It wove them together, filled them once more with courage and strength."I believe in the power of music to change the world. I believe in the power of young people to change the world. Marching for Freedom strengthened those beliefs.
(Note: There are some very difficult scenes in this book, so I wouldn't recommend it to the under-10 crowd without a willing, caring adult along for the ride.)